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I Ditched Soap and Water for a 9-Step Korean Skincare Routine, and Damn If I Don’t Feel Handsome

You scream, I scream, we all scream for BB cream

I’m not who you’d describe as the “envious” type. Sure, I think we all covet the things we don’t have to some degree — my friends are all beginning to purchase their first homes, for example, a luxury I’d love to be able to afford at this point in my 35 years of life but haven’t been able to yet (apologies, I guess I just love avocado toast and cold brew too much).

I’m also quite certain I’m not the only one envious of folks with the kind of “fuck you” money required to jet off to the Amalfi Coast for a week or two this summer. And who wouldn’t walk into one of those aforementioned friends’ homes and not immediately be overcome with seething hatred over the fact that they’re soooo spendy and smug that, not only do they all have mud rooms (a thoroughly underrated room), but that they’ve got a brand new washer/dryer and a dishwasher in their kitchen?!?! Like, would it be so much to ask to have a new Tesla parked outside my one-bedroom apartment like everyone else in L.A., instead of my “gently used” Mazda? I don’t even need the Model S, I’d totally settle for the 3. Is that so much to f-ing ask???

Okay, so I’m a little bit envious.

But that’s just your typical, run-of-the-mill envy. Just recently, though, I realized I was envious of something that, frankly, guys aren’t supposed to be envious about. Something us “strong, silent types” are taught from a young age is “chick shit” — the kind of thing that, if you’re not careful, will “turn you gay.”

You know: Great, well-maintained skin.

Specifically, the great skin of my girlfriend, who after spending most of her college years crawling in and out of tanning beds has since settled into a nice morning-and-evening skin-care routine with nothing but the best in cleansers, night creams, and of course, snail mucus. That last one she learned about from THE authority on cutting-edge skin care — the sovereign nation of South Korea. And it’s working out *chef’s kiss* for her. Not only is her skin as smooth as a baby’s bottom, but she’s got no “11’s” to speak of. More on 11’s in a bit.

With the help of Korea and their big business, K-Beauty empire, my girlfriend had succeeded in making me envious of her skin — especially since mine was a mess from years of mistreatment. I, too, wanted a face devoid of dry patches, sun spots and wrinkles.

And, by God, I was going to get it.

The Problem: My skincare skills suck. My skin sucks. Therefore I, suck.

The Alleged Cure-All: K-Beauty, bay bay! But seriously, if there’s one thing I’ve learned on this skincare journey, it’s that the Koreans know their shit, and make killer products to boot.

Not knowing basically anything about what I was doing, and feeling a bit overwhelmed by each “best of” skincare product list my trying-to-be-helpful girlfriend was sending me, I emailed the man leading the charge on male skincare, David Yi, founder of the men’s beauty website Very Good Light, and asked him what his skincare routine looks like. He gave me a list of products he uses on a daily basis, and I got to shopping.

For daytime, he suggested:

At night, he recommended:

I know, that’s a lot.

Total Spend on All Nine Products: $371. Yikes.

The Science: As much as I’d like to get into the science of what all this stuff does for your skin, if I tried, we’d be here all day, and also, I’m not a dermatologist. I will, however, give you the CliffsNotes on a few of the more important points.

Take the MISSHA Toner. As I mentioned, toners are used to keep your face’s pH levels balanced. This might sound like a bunch of dermatological mumbo jumbo, but a lot of common face issues are caused by skin that’s either too acidic, or too alkaline. For example, if your skin breaks out a lot, your skin’s pH levels might be too acidic. Dry, flaky skin? Too alkaline. In the end, you might be going through tube after tube of moisturizer (or, if you’re like a lot of dudes, just grinning and bearing it), trying to fix your dry-ass skin, and this whole time perhaps all you needed was a bit of toner.

The other science-y stuff is the Retinol Night Cream. Retinol is cool stuff; it’s essentially Vitamin A, an ingredient that can slow your skin’s aging process by encouraging it to renew itself, and by enhancing collagen production — the protein that helps keep your face firm and elastic. If you’ve got wrinkles, if you’ve got fine lines, if your pores are so big you could drive a truck through them, retinol should help.

The Experience: I started out with a few key issues…

  1. I had dry, flaky skin around my chin and between my eyes, that, no matter what I tried (with my limited man-knowledge) would not go away.
  2. I’m starting to get lines on my forehead, between my eyes (my 11’s, as my girlfriend referred to them) and running from my nose to the edges of my mouth.
  3. I have a couple of sunspots, i.e., dark and discolored splotches of skin, on either cheek.

I spent the first week dutifully running through each step of the routine: Cleanser, cleanser, toner, activating serum, moisturizer, sunscreen, and if I was feeling fancy (and to see what it was like), BB cream during the day. I did the same thing at night, except subbing the night cream and overnight mask for the sunscreen.

From start to finish, the entire routine takes about eight minutes. That is, assuming I’m applying everything correctly. Because the whole “layering” thing threw me off a bit — was I supposed to wait until everything dried before moving to the next product? I wasn’t sure, so I erred on the side of caution and waited patiently until I felt like one layer wouldn’t affect the previous.

There were some things that were noticeable right away, and some things that took more time. The most obvious, immediate sensation was the smell — damn, I smelled good. I especially appreciated the scent of the Then I Met You Living Cleansing Balm, which smelled of citrus, and the AmorePacific moisturizer, which had a faint scent of ginger. But the other immediate sensation was that, after applying everything, my skin no longer felt, for lack of a better description, stretched. Like, stretched uncomfortably. Because of my dry skin, when I’d smile or talk, I could feel my skin crack and pull; it was almost painful. But immediately, that feeling went away, like I had new skin.

Other changes took more time, but were just as welcome: My skin began to feel soft. Like, marshmallow soft. And smooth. My lord, my skin got smooth. All of the rough, kinda fuzzy patches slowly faded away, and in their place? Marble. By week three, the driest areas of my face no longer cracked and flaked, and by week four, I began noticing that the lines around my cheeks, and my godforsaken 11’s, were melting away.

Anything that wasn’t changing for the better I covered up with the BB cream — particularly my sunspots, which I’ve been told are literally more than skin deep, and require lasers and thousands of dollars to get rid of. It took a bit of courage to wear some makeup to work, considering the absolute assholes that populate MEL’s office, but after I put some on — and realized, as long as I didn’t use too much, it was hardly noticeable — I have to admit, I kinda dug it.

The Number of People at the Office Who Could Tell I Was Wearing Makeup: 1

The Takeaway: Though it might take eight more minutes of time each morning and evening than I’ve ever spent on my face before, seeing the positive changes in my skin tone, complexion and overall texture really made it all worth it.

Now I know what you’re thinking: “But Jeff, aren’t you all about finding the quickest, least painful ways to improve your life, and doesn’t spending all this time in front of the mirror and money on product fly in the face of that?” To that I say, but this is the quickest, least painful way to gift myself better skin. Assuming that going through life with shitty skin isn’t an option, the only alternative to a relatively quick daily routine is, what, plastic surgery?

No thanks.

Sure, all nine products cost me a pretty penny, but the way I look at it, this was more of a way to see what I liked, what I didn’t think I really needed moving forward and going from there. If you were interested in following my footsteps but not in spending nearly half a grand, you could probably get away with just a good daily face wash, a toner, an oil-free moisturizer and the retinol night cream. But truthfully, start doing your own research on websites like Very Good Light that cater to men and see what works for you.

And damn if you won’t feel handsome, too.

Jeff’s Rating: 9/10